MARSHALL - The Southwest Minnesota State University class of 2013 passed through the halls of academe on Saturday, many for the last time. But despite a lot of gloomy talk about job prospects, the situation for many looked quite hopeful.
The cost of college education is high, and books alone cost as much as a semester course used to. But for those who took advantage of SMSU's career-directed curricula, it may have been worth.
To begin with, costs at SMSU are affordable enough for many to graduate without a debt burden.
Photo by Steve Browne
Agriculture business majors Megan Weckman, Samantha Trebesch and Justin Prokosch were among the graduates who matriculated at Southwest Minnesota State University on Saturday. Trebesch already has a job at Land O’ Lakes and Prokosch is working at Harvestland Cooperative.
Shane Rasmussen graduated with a degree in education, debt-free.
"I've got no job offers yet," Rasmussen said. "I'll start looking after I finish student teaching in Canon Falls."
Carlyn Torres, graduate in hospitality and culinary arts, is also debt-free.
"I'm looking into catering," Torres said, "and when I get back to Vancouver, Washington, I've got some interviews."
Many graduates already have jobs lined up.
Samantha Trebesch majored in agriculture business and does have outstanding loans.
"It'll get taken care of," Trebesch said, "I have a job at Land O' Lakes."
Trebesch's fellow ag business major, Justin Prokosch, has a job at Harvestland Cooperative. Their friend Megan Weckman doesn't have a job lined up yet but said she's not too worried.
It's been said that someone who can cook will never starve. Culinology major Mitch Grittman said he worries about his loans, but he's got a job at Kajun Kettle Foods in his native New Orleans.
Culinologist Krystal Jochims does admit to being worried but not overwhelmed.
"I've got loans, six years worth," Jochims said. "I'm trying to get them paid off, and I've already started putting money away to pay off the interest."
Jochims has a job with General Mills waiting for her.
Of course job prospects in general depend on the graduates' major field of study. Professor George Seldat, chairman of the finance department, regularly tracks the worth of a degree in his field in terms, not of costs but of burden. Every year, Seldat has a class project where his students do a financial analysis of the choice to go to college, versus not going to college, thus showing a great deal of confidence in the utility of the subject he teaches.
"If you look at cost of education relative to income, they have kind of kept pace over the last 10 years," Seldat said. "So if you talk about somebody going to school, getting out and having to pay it back, the burden has been fairly consistent."
But what about the majors in the arts and humanities? It turns out there are practical advantages as well.
David KelseyBassett is a Marine Corps veteran majoring in art. Though his veterans benefits paid for his education, it turns out it's not just an indulgence.
"I've worked at Runnings in the graphic design department for two years," he said. "I hope I can move into the art director's position."
At the commencement address, given by Dr. Rassoul Dastmozd, president of St. Paul College and graduate of SMSU, Dastmozd urged graduates not to give up hope if the road is hard at first.
Dastmozd told the students of his journey as a refugee from Iran, his first years in the United States and the welcome he found in Minnesota.
"Maybe like me you'll send 150 resumes for your first job," Dastmozd said. "Maybe you'll discover your first choice isn't you chosen career path after all. But at the end of today's commencement, you will be alumni of SMSU. I urge you to give back to your community. Never think your education is at an end. And keep in mind, once a Mustang, always a Mustang. Go Mustangs!"